The Giants have the 12th overall pick in upcoming NFL draft. When their turn to select a player comes up, between 9:30 and 10:00 PM Eastern time on May 8th, they will take someone expected to contribute immediately and help return them to the playoffs for the first time since winning Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012.
In order to best form an opinion on who the Giants will draft, I first studied Jerry Reese’s Draft history as General Manager, and then analyzed twenty mock drafts from a wide variety of sources. The results of mock draft analysis identified ten potential players to join the Giants. One was eliminated based on position and their free agent moves. They will not be taking a cornerback after signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman, and re-signing Trumaine McBride. With Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley already on the roster they are set at this position.
Also eliminated from consideration is quarterback. Despite Eli Manning’s recent surgery to clean out his left ankle, he is expected to make a full recovery and is firmly entrenched as the Giants starter. Backups Curtis Painter and 2013 4th rounder Ryan Nassib are also returning. A free agent will likely be signed to provide another arm while Manning recovers during the next six to eight weeks, and the teams needs lay elsewhere. A running back to be drafted at some point, perhaps as early as the 3rd round, but this position is not emphasized in the current NFL, and for the second straight year, none are expected to be drafted in Round 1. Similarly, the Giants will consider an outside linebacker in the first round. Although a position of need, it’s not a recent position of emphasis for the team.
What positions will the Giants consider in round 1? All the others, depending on what the eleven teams in front of them do. Part of the fun of watching the draft, always higher rated television broadcast than the regular season major league baseball games and NBA and NHL playoff games on against it, is seeing how the picks break and the surprise selections that occur. Depending on how many quarterbacks are picked in front of them, and what trades might occur between teams in the top 10, if one of these three players slides down the Giants at slot 12, they will pounce and never look back:
(Note: All player specific analysis in this article is courtesy of Nolan Nawrocki’s NFL Draft 2014 Preview. He prepares the most comprehensive guide to the draft I’ve found over the years and I’m thrilled he’s continued to publish is after his mother ship, Pro Football Weekly, folded its tents last year).
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: At 6’5” and 350 pounds, Robinson is a raw prospect with better run blocking than pass blocking skills. He has the potential to develop into a franchise left tackle with some coaching on proper technique. He could go as high as number 2 overall to the Rams, but if he were to slip to the Giants spot, he would be wearing blue in a heartbeat.
Jake Matthews, OT/G/C, Texas A&M: Not as heavy as Robinson, at 308 pounds, the 6’5½” Matthews, son of Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews, is the most complete lineman in the draft. He can play any position on the line and might be best at center, one of the Giants biggest needs. Matthews would be a starter from day one with the Giants.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: A game changing wide receiver with exception football speed, Watkins can change a game with a single play. Recent rumors have the Detroit Lions trying to mortgage their franchise (Think Mike Ditka trading his entire draft class in 1999 to draft Ricky Williams) in order to pair Watkins with, and eventually replace, Calvin Johnson. If he somehow slips through the cracks to the Giants, he would immediately start and open up the passing game the way Jeremy Shockey did when drafted 14th overall in 2002.
None of these blue chip prospects are expected to be available when the Giants are on the clock, however, neither was Prince Amukamara at slot 19 during the 2011 draft, but four quarterbacks being drafted in front of them, allowed the cornerback to slide down.
The players below have all been associated with the Giants by at least one of the mock drafts analyzed. In comparing the Nawrocki past personnel evaluations with those of players actually drafted by Reese and Giants current team needs, it is reasonable to conclude that the team will draft one of the players listed below. Two of them, if they fortunate enough for one to make it to their slot in Round 2. They are listed alphabetically.
Aaron Donald, DT/DE, Pittsburgh: Donald has a high motor and the penetration skills needed to excel in the Tampa 2 scheme that Perry Fewell favors. While the Giants do not have the personnel to utilize this scheme, they do use many of its concepts and Donald’s ability to play both tackle and end on the defensive line will appeal to the team. Donald does not have the ideal size that most NFL teams prefer at defensive tackle, at 6’0¾” and 285 pounds, but makes up for it by getting off the ball lightning quick.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama: Clinton-Dix lacks the speed NFL seek in a free safety, but makes up for it with superior instincts, athletic ability, and tackling skills. He is a center fielder that can be plugged in on day one as a starter and make an immediate contribution to the team. The Giants are counting on both Stevie Brown’s recovers from a torn ACL and Will Hill’s continued compliance with the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy. If either falters in their respective recoveries, the team will lack adequate depth at safety. Side note: Clinton-Dix given name is Ha’Sean. His grandmother nicknamed him Ha Ha when he was a small child and it stuck.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: The highly-athletic Ebron is more developed as a receiver than a blocker, but has the frame and leverage to evolve into a complete NFL tight end. His 6’4 3/8” height and 4.58 speed in the 40 yard dash will create mismatches that offense coordinator Ben McAdoo will stay up late at night designing schemes to exploit. Tight end is one of the Giants greatest position of needs as they do not have an accomplished receiving threat currently on the roster.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: Big at 6’4¾” but only has moderate 4.53 40 yard dash speed, Evans has exceptional hands and will be an immediate red zone threat. He will help fill the hole left by Hakeem Nicks and develop into a starter in short order. A former basketball player, he will box out defenders and fight for the ball effectively (Think Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas).
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: A natural nose tackle, Jernigan, like Donald, is considered undersized at 6’1 5/8” and 299 pounds. He will anchor the line at be a stout defender against the run, but will need to be a rotational player in his first season as his stamina is less than ideal. His stock is rising after a good performance at the NFL combine, however, this has often been a red herring in the past (Mike Mamula, Eagles, 7th overall, 1995 draft is the most glaring example).
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: A four year starter at Michigan, Lewan is an extremely refined player and an exceptional pass blocker. Plays with great intensity but is criticized for not being a physical play finisher. Said to have a “quirky personality” that is often misunderstood. I could see this being an issue under New York media scrutiny. Could plug in and play right away on the offensive line, a position of great need for the Giants.
Zack Martin, OT/G/C, Notre Dame: Played tackle at Notre Dame, but his short arm length (32 7/8”) would dictate a move inside in the NFL. Described as a one of the cleanest prospects in the draft, Martin could play immediately at guard or center. A two time team captain at Notre Dame, he also would bring leadership to the offensive line. Twelfth overall might be a bit high for Martin, but he will never last until the second round and his flexibility will appeal the Giants. They could potentially trade down a few spots, pick up an extra pick or two and still land Martin.
CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama: Intelligent, instinctive, and fast-flowing to the ball are all descriptors used to for Mosley, the top inside linebacker in the 2014 draft. He is also injury prone, which makes drafting him high risky. Reese has a history of taking chances on talented, injury prone athletes, but never this high. However, Mosley’s talent must make him a consideration.
Stephon Tuitt, DE/DT, Notre Dame: Tuitt draws raves about his size, 6’5½” and 304 pounds, and his 34 inch arms, but has also had injury issues that may cause him to drop in the draft. He is a versatile player that can line up at either end or tackle in a 4-3 defense, a trait that will appeal to the Giants.
Mock drafts are a lot of fun to read, but are rarely accurate indicators of actual draft results. They do, however, give insight into other NFL fan and media expert’s thought processes as to team needs and reasoning for players matching those needs. Gil Brandt, of nfl.com and Sirius XM satellite radio, refers to the period between the end of the scouting combine in February and the NFL draft as a big game of liar’s poker. Teams go to great lengths to disguise their interest in players and mislead everyone as to their true intentions on draft day. For example, I saw a tweet this week that none of the players that were reported last year as making pre-draft visits to the Giants were among their draftees. This makes it more difficult to complete an accurate mock draft.
What will the Giants do on draft day? You will have to wait for my mock draft post to see my prediction in that regard, but, barring some radical new development as my draft research continues, the name that appears in slot 12 will be among those profiled above. Can you guess which one?
Feel free to comment with your predictions below.